After postponing the first football game of the 2004 season several times due to inclement weather, excitement built for the rival match up against Florida State University. UM President Donna Shalala requested that the student section become a “sea of orange” by wearing shirts bearing the name Cubavera. Students gladly accepted the free shirts and wore them as they cheered the ‘Canes on, but who was behind the thousands of shirts and what is Cubavera?
The shirts were donated by apparel industry’s George Feldenkreis, chairman and CEO of Perry Ellis International. Feldenkreis came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1961 with nearly nothing. He began importing Guayabera shirts that were fashionable in Cuba, and these shirts helped Feldenkreis create an empire in the world of clothing in Miami that employs more than 1500 people and is worth $650 million.
The company has expanded from importing to owning labels and creating attire. Perry Ellis, the original penguin and Nike swimwear are a few of the better-known names that the business has rights to. Cubavera is the label created by the Feldenkreis family that became the modern version of the Guayabera clothing.
“My brother Isaac and I built the company from the ground. Oscar, my son, has expanded the business further, creating a publicly traded company,” Feldenkreis said. “We have achieved the American Dream.”
As a member of the board of trustees at UM for a number of years, Feldenkreis has been an avid supporter of higher education and athletics at UM. He has two granddaughters, Erica and Jennifer, who are business majors at the University.
“I would be involved in the University even if I did not have relatives in attendance because I think that Miamians should support the institution of higher education,” Feldenkreis said. “In our community it is an investment itself and should be a high priority.”
Shalala approached Feldenkreis on the subject of donating shirts to the student body and he agreed to the idea.
“It was a win-win situation for everyone since the students would get free shirts and the company would get national advertising,” he said.
While no set plans have been made to make the donation an annual event for the first football game of the season, Feldenkreis feels positive it could happen in the future since it was a success this year.
“We are big supporters of the sports programs at Miami, including donating to the athletes’ scholarship fund, so we will be involved in times to come whether it is with clothing or not,” Feldenkreis said.
Stacey Arnold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.